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 Wilfred J. Jones  (1888 - 1968)

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: illustrator-story, painter

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Ad Code: 4
Wilfred J Jones
An example of work by Wilfred J. Jones
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following, submitted May 2003, is from John W Alexander, Jr of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. He is a nephew of the artist.

Wilfred Jones was born in Philadelphia, PA on January 20, 1888, to Thomas Shade Jones and Rose Coyle Jones; he was the third child in a family of ten children. At an early age he was encouraged to draw and paint by his mother, who had been a schoolteacher. An omnivorous reader all his life, he could not remember learning to read, except that it was before he went to school. In school at age six, he continued to draw his fellow students instead of concentrating on his schoolwork. As a child, he often entered art competitions sponsored by the local newspapers, usually winning. Since he often sent in multiple entries under different names, he sometimes won all three prizes. He often visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art to draw from the casts of classical sculpture, but there was no money for formal art instruction.

Withdrawing from school at sixteen and moving to New York, he lived with his aunt and uncle. He got his first job in the art department of "The American", a Hearst paper that later became "The Journal-American". Next he worked for the book designer Will Bradley and later became a freelance illustrator, working for firms including J. Walter Thompson, the advertising agency. There he met a young Thompson employee, Alice Rusk, who was the daughter of a former federal cabinet official and Governor of Wisconsin. They were married on March 1, 1911. (Their only child, Elizabeth Rusk Jones, was born on January 16, 1915. She married Arthur Greenhall, a herpetologist and bat expert. She died in December 2002 in New York.)

Jones' work for "Asia" magazine led him to study Oriental art and literature and to experiment in linoleum cuts and woodcuts and wood engraving. He did covers for magazines: Scribner's, Survey Graphic, The Rotarian and the New York Times Magazine.

The first exhibition of "50 Best Books" by the American Society of Graphic Artists included three books illustrated by Wilfred Jones: "The Epic of Kings," "The Kasidah" and "The Island of the Mighty." In 1927, during a four-month stay in Paris he illustrated three books for New York publishers: "The Story of a Country Town," "The Rise of American Civilization" and "Memories of the Count de Grammont."

In 1930 he published his only book, "How The Derrick Works." In 1931 "A Sentimental Journey" was included in the fourth exhibition, "50 Best Books" by the American Society of Graphics Artists. In 1932 he illustrated a limited edition (950 copies) of Charles Lamb's "A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig." The illustrations were done in black and white and painted in color by a team of young artists, following originals by Wilfred Jones.

In the 1940s, he illustrated children's books and magazine articles. An important source of income was from the Methodist Church Editorial Division, for whom he did a full-color series of illustrations for Bible stories. In 1942, he bought a 250 year old house in Chester, New York, which would be used for weekends and summer vacations. In 1958 he declared himself retired and he painted to please himself and continued to draw, paint, read and write. A hobby was tracing the genealogy of the Jones family, which had emigrated from Wales to Philadelphia in 1710.

His wife's death on November 11, 1963 after a nearly yearlong illness, was a bitter blow from which he never recovered.

He died on August 20, 1968 in St. Vincent's Hospital of a pulmonary embolism.

The only exhibition of his work was held at the LaSalle University Art Gallery in Philadelphia from November 14 to December 14, 1977.

The originals of his illustrations remain in the possession of his family.
Note submitted September 2004 from Paul Greenhall, grandson of the artist.

My sister and I have inherited all of grandpa's artwork, which includes all of his books, wood cuts and original art. One of his pieces, "Joan of Arc", which appears in Mark Twain's book will be exhibited at the Corcoran Art Gallery November 2005 and later at the Mark Twain Museum.

Grandma (Alice R. Jones), wife of Wilfred Jones, was also a fine artist, and we have two paintings of hers. She was the grandchild of Jeramiah Rusk, the first Secretary of Agriculture and Governor of Wisconsin in the 1800's.

Elizabeth R. Greenhall (Jones) was grandma and grandpa's only child a gifted and talented child, who attended City & Country School NYC in the 1920's. An artist as well, she specialised in ceramics, sculpture, collage and was instrumental in assisting the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago obtain their independence in 1968, by chairing the Prime Minister's Art and Independence Committee.

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